Meet the man preparing his country for the Winter Olympics

At the Olympic Games, it’s the athletes who win medals, become famous in the media and are welcomed home as heroes.

But behind those superstars, there’s a team of people putting programmes in place and working tirelessly to help them reach their goals.

Meet Roman Bucek, the Sports Director for the Slovakian Olympic Committee.

That’s an impressive job title. How did you become the Sports Director for your country? Are you an ex-Olympian or athlete?

Sport has been part of my life since my childhood. After finishing university, I taught PE and Geography and coached canoeists.

As an athlete, I had several national championships victories and took part in World championships in flatwater canoeing, but unfortunately, I never made it to the Olympic games.

Slovakia left Rio de Janeiro with four medals (two gold and two silver). If we rate countries by medals per capita (population size), then Slovakia was amongst the top performing countries in the world during the Summer Olympics. How does that make you feel?

The Slovak NOC (National Olympic Committee) is primarily focused on having a national delegation of athletes at the games and we look to provide optimal conditions for the athletes when they are there. If someone wins an Olympic medal or gets their personal best, of course, there’s a feeling of a job well done.

Slovakia placed 27th place among the 86 countries that won medals (rating per capita) at Rio. And 14th place for gold medals (rating per capita) amongst 58 countries. It's a really good result. But in the same breath, the number of Slovak athletes competing overall decreases from games to games.

How do you plan to match or improve on this for the 2018 Winter Olympics?

Slovakia placed 16th in Sochi 2014 amongst 26 countries that earned medals (rating per capita). It’s hard to forecast if our athletes will defend or improve that placement. But what we can do is try our best to fulfil their requests in the lead-up to the games and provide them with optimal conditions for their performance.

Anastaysia Kuzmina secured Slovakia’s only medal at Sochi when she took gold in the Biathlon (women’s Sprint). Will she return for 2018?

Anastasia is working hard on her way to succeed in the Olympic competition again. And I hope she will be in top shape after proper tapering for the games. But our biggest hopes are also in sports that showed good results in the last competition season.

Alpine skiing is one that we will focus on. The silver medal in the team competition earned at last World championships as well as many times podium placements of Petra Vlhova and Veronika Velez Zuzulova in the World Cup slalom competitions give chances to succeed Slovak tricolour again in PyeongChang.

But sport is sport - there's a chance any of our athletes will surprise with a good result.

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